Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
If I had to choose a single phrase to describe Bicycle Thieves, it would be soul crushing. Just a few days before, I watched a film in which a small boy, knowing what the consequences would be of his action, flipped a tortoise on its back. I couldn’t help but think of that image of the tortoise struggling in vain while the little boy went about his business without so much as a second thought. It was positively heartbreaking.
What makes Bicycle Thieves so effective are the lead performances rendered by Lamberto Maggiorani as our protagonist Antonio Ricci; a humble man simply chasing a shred of dignity, and his young son Bruno, played with touching sincerity by newcomer Enzo Staiola. There is a scene where father and son are eating a humble meal of bread of mozzarella at a restaurant .. a meal the father can ill afford. There is a table with an obviously affluent family next to theirs, with a son about Bruno’s age also eating bread and mozzarella. Antonio observes to his son that to eat like this all the time he’d have to be making over a million a month. Bruno looks at his father soulfully, his eyes beginning to water, puts down the bread on the plate and looks down. That small scene broke my heart with Staiola’s genuine performance.
I’m short on commending Bicycle Thieves the masterpiece status that many others do, though. I felt there was far too much time spent on the searching scenes that could have been better used developing characters that were brought in, but not given any depth. Also, the ‘mystic’ scene, and Antonio’s flippant reaction, predicating his misfortune cheapened the film, I found. I think the power in Bicycle Thieves was that Antonio was not in control of his own destiny; it was always in the hands of others.
That being said, it was certainly powerfully poignant, and a truly moving experience.